Apr 122009
Authors: Madeline Novey

Fort Collins is projected to see a 1.6 percent job increase next year, and it is because of this and other regional economic measures, political and business experts agree, that Forbes Magazine ranked the city the No. 2 national metropolitan for business and career success.

The projected job growth is a product of economic strategic initiatives — which aim to diversify the local workforce — set in place by the Northern Colorado Economic Committee in 2006, recently re-elected Fort Collins Mayor Doug Hutchinson said.

“Fort Collins has been doing better as far as the economy goes compared to most cities,” Hutchinson said in reference to data reporting Colorado’s unemployment rate at 7.2 percent as of February 2009, in comparison with the national figure of 8.5 percent as of March 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“(The Forbes ranking) was undoubtedly a positive thing . It was richly deserved.”

Fort Collins was ranked out of 200 metropolitan cities nationwide on the basis of eleven factors, said Forbes Magazine reporter Kurt Badenhausen, including: projected job growth according to Moody’s economic report, educational labor supply, quality of life and the rates of sub-prime mortgages.

“Fort Collins has one of the most educated labor supplies in the country,” Badenhausen said, noting that Fort Collins’ labor education rate comes in at 40 percent compared with the national average of 23 percent.

Fort Collins is “one of the few areas that is expected to see decent job growth,” Badenhausen said, explaining that, “It’s a difficult process to (rank cities) right now because no area is adding jobs.”

And while Fort Collins was among the smallest of the cities rated for the category – as compared with Raleigh, Austin and Nevada –/it equals the economic strengths of its competitors because, Badenhausen said, “College towns have a strong, affordable, renewable work force coming out each year.”

Fort Collins attracts national and international businesses for several reasons, local business expert Maury Dobbie said, including:

Access to an educated work force

Access to an accredited research university, and

Access to a high percentage of skilled laborers.

Hundreds of jobs were created in Larimer County last year when several large businesses moved to Fort Collins and Loveland said Dobbie, president and CEO of the Northern Colorado Economic Development Corporation, a non-profit institution that advocates for businesses to locate to Larimer County.

“Globalization has changed the way we have to, as economic developers, improve the economy,” Dobbie said. “A business who looks to come wants to come to a region, not just a city.”

Companies that move to the region hire, on average, at least 90 percent of the local work force, she added.

Enterprise Rent-a-Car relocated and established its national firm in Fort Collins early this year, adding 120 jobs, each of which pay between $30,000 and $50,000 per year. Additionally, the NCEDC played a part in bringing Intel Corporation and 400 jobs to the city in 2005. Dobbie added that Constant Contact, an e-mail survey service newly built in Loveland, is planning to hire 400.

She said while the ranking is well-deserved, the rankings have to be maintained in order to promote increased business and job development in the city and surrounding regions.

“Rankings are shallow if we don’t perform,” she said. “Fort Collins isn’t an island. Even though it has rankings and we are proud of Fort Collins . People know you have to be strong and work together . Rankings don’t really help unless they really are real.”

Assistant News Editor Madeline Novey can be reached at news@collegian.com

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